The International CES is now officially underway, so of course I woke up early and made a bee-line for the Oculus booth, which is thoroughly impressive in and of itself. A two story well appointed behemoth, it’s clear that Oculus is a centerpiece at this year’s CES. But enough about the booth, lets get right to the thing we have all been so excited to see, the new Crescent Bay.
This was my first time getting the chance to try on the new prototype, which many are speculating is the last version before CV1, so I was obviously super pumped to try it on and I will tell you right now, I hadn’t even prepared myself for the level of epicness that I witnessed within the demo. It was seriously that good, and if there are any skeptics still out there, be ready to have your skepticism completely washed away.
I walked into the soundproofed booth and the first thing I noticed was the lack of any chairs in the room, right away they wanted to make sure this was a standing experience. My demo leader asked me a couple of questions and took my glasses then prepared to hand me the most life changing piece of hardware I have ever had the pleasure of trying. After a brief adjustment or two the first demo fired up but not before I was told five words that would utterly transform the VR experience for me, “go ahead and walk around.”
The first demo placed me in a futuristic looking boiler room, as I walked around I found quickly that the padded walls provided more than just excellent sound proofing. The positional tracking on the Crescent Bay is massively improved over the DK2 and it really showed during this demo, true to what I was told, I was able to maneuver rather freely within the environment. How’s the display, you ask? Un-be-fucking-leavable. Seriously, this thing was so crisp and clear that in the 10-15 minutes (it was so immersive I completely lost track of time) of demos I tried it provoked more audible “Holy shit’s!” than the South Park episode with the shit counter. Seriously, I think the demoer was enjoying watching me as much as I was enjoying demoing, but I digress.
The Crescent Bay has completely solved the screen door effect that plagued the DK1 and to a lesser degree the DK2. The display was also far more crisp than the DK2, I have found that with my eyesight sometimes in the DK2 objects would occasionally appear fairly blurry, this was definitely not the case with the Crescent Bay. None of the demoes that I tried really had any text in them, so I can’t comment yet on the readability of it, however there was one of the demoes that had some sheet music on a stand that I walked over and leaned in on and it looked crystal clear up close, although before I approached it, it did appear slightly pixelated, but I think that may have been a rendering glitch.
Each of the 18 demos that I was ran through showed off a different aspect of the technology and how it could be applied across multiple genres and mediums. While there was no 360-degree video demo per se, there was a hilarious demo with two robot arms that got into a fight with magic wands, it was very reminiscent of the original Pixar lamp short. The demo really showed off the narrative power of videos in VR as the fight commenced and the robots shifted to either side of the peripheral vision firing colorful, Harry Potter-esque bolts of magic at each other. As I shifted directions to track the bolts I found myself physically reacting and dodging them as they came towards my face, it was one of the first times I have had a truly subconscious physical reaction to VR and was definitely one of my first moments of true presence. There was a similar effect achieved for me during the bullet time demo, Showdown – which was shown at Connect last year – as the 3D was so great that I really felt like I was moving in slow motion through a firefight with a giant robot, I took the opportunity to practice my Matrix moves as I dipped and dodged to avoid the bullets and shrapnel.
Speaking of the 3D, I am not sure what it was, perhaps just optimization of the experiences, but it felt massively improved over the DK2. This was especially true during the two demos that I tried that involved a T-Rex. The first was simply a highly detailed model that growled at you as you looked around it, but at that scale the sense of depth was truly impressive. The second placed me in a hallway, as I looked around I could sense something was about to happen and when it did… whoa nelly. A loud roar, heard incredibly clearly though the surprisingly impressive built in headphones, caused me to whip around to see a T-Rex bum rushing me, and as it got close and opened its mouth to take a bite, I felt myself putting my hands up, the only thing was missing was foul breath in my face but I can live without that.
Another demo placed me in a familiar top of the being built skyscraper situation, but this one was far more clear than any other I have tried. One of the more hilarious highlights of this particular demo was a billboard featuring Palmer himself placed directly behind the player in the futuristic cityscape. My one gripe, and it’s minor, is that I was a little disappointed I didn’t go careening down to the concrete below when I stepped off the edge, although I did get a little bit of a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach as I peered down. Unlike the Sightline demo, this scene was at night, which really added to the beauty of the city scene, as the colors of the lights really popped.
Speaking of colors perhaps the best demo for that was this one that was similar to the art style of Windracers. All it was was you sitting around a fire with a couple of cute forest animals, and it was extremely simple graphically but the colors all popped quite well. It did an excellent job of demonstrating how you don’t need the most photorealistic graphics to create an immersive and enjoyable scene.
By the end of the last demo, my cheeks hurt because I had been smiling so much in pure amazement and joy from the experience. It reminded me of the first time I tried VR, firing up a Titans of Space demo and sheading a tear out of pure amazement that this, something I had dreamed of my entire life, was actually going to be realized. Simply put, the Crescent Bay was like experiencing VR for the first time all over again.
Make sure to stay tuned to Upload’s coverage of CES, we will be bringing a 180-degree 3D camera out on the show floor, thanks to our friends over at Lucid Cam, so we should have some pretty great content to show all of you soon. Until then, stay Rifty.